Science

World’s first flying car that travels 100mph at altitudes of 10,000ft is cleared for by the FAA


The dream of a flying car just got one step closer to reality, after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted approval to a hybrid ground-air vehicle that can soar at speeds of 100 mph.

The Terrafugia Transition received a Special Light-Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate from the agency, giving it the green light for takeoff. 

A flight-only version of the craft is now available to pilots and flight schools, though it will be another year or so before its car components are ‘street legal’ – it still needs to meet road safety standards.

Ultimately,  drivers will be able to convert from flying to driving in less than a minute, taking off and landing in small airports or the highway.

Terrafugia hopes to have production and approvals on the two-seat hybrid complete for 2022, but those interested in taking it for a spin will need both a driver’s license and a sport pilot’s certificate.

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The FAA has given approval to Terrafugia's Transition, a 'flying car' that can fly at speeds of 100 mph and an altitude of 10,000 feet. Flight-only models are now available, with full air-land version expected in 2022

The FAA has given approval to Terrafugia’s Transition, a ‘flying car’ that can fly at speeds of 100 mph and an altitude of 10,000 feet. Flight-only models are now available, with full air-land version expected in 2022

Chinese-owned Terrafugia has been overly optimistic about delivering a ‘roadable aircraft,’ a small plane with retractable wings that can both drive on roads and take to the open sky.

It first promised the Transition would be for sale in 2015, then 2018 and then 2019.

But Terrafugia general manager Kevin Colburn praised his team’s efforts during ‘an extremely challenging pandemic year.’

‘Our team remained focused, improved our quality system, completed the critical aspects of the design, built the vehicle, completed 80 days of flight testing, delivered 150 technical documents and successfully passed the FAA audit,’ Colburn said.

‘This is a major accomplishment that builds momentum in executing our mission to deliver the world’s first practical flying car.’

WHAT IS THE TERRAFUGIA TRANSITION?

The Terrafugia Transition was recently granted a Special Light-Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate from the FAA.

The aircraft, which weighs roughly 1,300 pounds, has fixed landing gear and fold-out wings.

It can reach speeds of 100mph and an altitude of about 10,000 feet. 

Owners will need both a driver’s license and a sport pilot’s certificate. 

  

  

Powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912iS Sport fuel-injected engine, the Transition has a max flight speed of 100 mph and a range of about 400 miles, with an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The plane engine can run on either premium gasoline or 100LL airplane fuel, while the car is powered by a hybrid-electric motor.

Standard features include four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, a rigid carbon fiber safety cage and an airframe parachute.

The vehicle weighs roughly 1,300 pounds and has fixed landing gear and a 27-foot-wide wingspan. 

The wings actually fold up to allow for easy storage in a single-car garage.

Terrafugia envisions owners landing their Transition at a small airport or a stretch of highway and then driving it home.

That differs from flying car prototypes developed by Uber, Kitty Hawk, BMW and others, which involve the vehicles taking up commercial air space.  

The vehicle converts from flying to driving in under a minute, according to Terrafugia.

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In 2018, the two-seat Transition was priced at $400,000, NBC News reported.

Terrafugia is developing several models of flying car, including the four-person TF-X, a four-seat hybrid electric with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

The TF-X is slated to be semi-autonomous, with computer controls that will allow passengers to simply type in their destination.

It will be capable of automatically avoiding air traffic, bad weather and restricted airspace.

Terrafugia was acquired by Chinese-owned Geely, the parent company of Volvo, in 2017.



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